Chefchaouen: The Blue Pearl of Morocco


Nestled into the rugged Rif Mountains of Morocco is the brightly painted blue city of Chefchaouen. The city’s stunning mountain surroundings, brightly-painted blue streets and alleys, and the exotic culture and shopping make Chefchaouen a must-see location for the travel photographer and casual tourist alike.

Chefchaouen is most famous for being the blue city. That’s what most people call it – “The Blue City” or “The Blue City of Morocco” since most tourists cannot spell or pronounce Chefchaouen. The city was founded  in 1471 but didn’t receive its famous indigo hue until around 1492, when a large influx of Jewish refugees arrived, escaping the Spanish inquisition. The color, many say, was chosen since it’s the spiritual color for the Jewish people (also used on Israel’s flag), while some historians believe the color was a tribute to a nearby mountain spring that made this settlement possible in this arid land. Locals today will claim that the blue color keeps the mosquitoes away.

The most interesting (and colorful) part of Chefchaouen is the Old City or medina.  Here you will find a Byzantine maze of narrow streets and alleys through blue and whitewashed homes and buildings of Spanish and Moorish architecture. It’s a great (and fun) place to get lost.
The Plaza Uta-el-Hammam is Chefchaouen’s cultural and commercial center with excellent restaurants and shopping. There’s also a museum in the plaza that’s a converted kasbah, a medieval fortress. You can purchase spices, rugs, ceramic pottery, fresh tea leaves. and locally made leather goods for sale in the many shops, markets, and open air souks. Don’t pass up the Moroccan mint tea while you browse!

Chefchaouen is a 125-mile (200 km) drive from Fez and a 210-mile (340 km) drive from Casablanca. There are also daily flights to and from Casablanca to Chefchaouen on Royal Air Maroc and bus services as well. Once you’ve arrived, you’ll have dozens of hotels to choose from but try to stay in the medina if possible. For more information on visiting Chefchaouen, you can check out the website of Morocco Tourism on Chefchaouen.

All text and photos © Richard Bernabe